Yates, Roush - Ford interview 2009-03-10

This Week in Ford Racing: Fuel mileage can often be the difference between winning and losing a race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Whether it's determining which car can stay out the longest on a green-flag run, or which car can make it...

This Week in Ford Racing:

Fuel mileage can often be the difference between winning and losing a race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Whether it's determining which car can stay out the longest on a green-flag run, or which car can make it to the finish without stopping, fuel mileage strategy often comes into play.

Ford has had a solid history of getting good fuel mileage on the track, as evidenced recently by two late-season wins by Carl Edwards at Texas and Homestead in 2008.

Fuel mileage off the track is just as important, and is being emphasized at Ford Motor Company with the launch of the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid, already rated the most fuel-efficient mid-size sedan in the country at an EPA sanctioned 41 mpg, and capable of getting up to 700 miles on a single tank of gas.

The forces behind Ford Racing engine supplier Roush Yates Engines, Doug Yates and Jack Roush, recently talked about the importance of fuel mileage and how that factor plays into their thinking when building engines. In addition, they give consumers a couple of tips on ways they can stretch their gas tank.

DOUG YATES, Owner, Yates Racing Ford Fusions

HOW DO YOU FIND THE PROPER MIX OF POWER AND FUEL ECONOMY IN YOUR RACE ENGINES? "That's a great question. In this sport, as an engine-builder, the number one job that we have for our teams is to give them the reliability to get to the end of the race, and then, obviously, they want the most power they can get for an advantage. But it seems lately with these cars and the conditions, that we have a lot of really long green runs, so the focus has been pushed to fuel economy and it's something we've gone to work on and done a pretty good job at so far. Carburetors are tough to work with and to get the even distribution between eight cylinders is a huge challenge and as our engine company works on different projects with fuel injected and single stacks, you really realize what the challenge is. A lot of Formula One guys can tune each cylinder individually just by a tweak on the computer, but for us, working with a four-barrel Holley carburetor and trying to get good fuel economy is really an interesting engineering challenge. I think our guys have really dug into that and understand it, and with the help of Jack Roush, who has had a history of winning races on fuel mileage, and the guys that we have now, we've been working on it and it seems like we've hit on some things that work really well for us. At Las Vegas, we might have gone over the edge a little bit, but that's something that it's just a fine line and if you're gonna go down that road, you've got to really be on your toes."

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR FORDS HAVE AN ADVANTAGE OVER SOME OF YOUR COMPETITORS WHEN IT COMES TO FUEL ECONOMY? "I think last year at the end of the season we won a couple races with Carl on fuel mileage and the driver has a huge part to do with fuel mileage as well. It's really how you apply the throttle and how you get out of the gas makes a big difference. We can even see a difference between our own camp that some drivers are better than others at it, but I feel right now we are as competitive as anybody on fuel mileage. Actually, at the end of the race at Vegas, we thought we would have been one of the few that could have made it all the way if it would have gone green and chose to do that with Bobby Labonte and the 96 car. So I think it's something we focus on and something where we see some wins or see some positions gained because of it."

WHAT'S THE BEST WAY FOR PEOPLE TO CONSERVE FUEL IN THEIR OWN CARS? "In the race car, we run under a caution lap the lowest RPM we can run. If you're driving your street car, how you apply the throttle and how you start leaving a red light, if you ease into it and baby the gas somewhat and don't apply it too fast or too long, you can actually look at your tach and that will give you a good indication. A lot of cars today obviously have a real-time fuel mileage indicator, so you can click that on in your car and watch that and see what you're doing with your miles per gallon, so the driver can make a huge difference. I think that's something our drivers in the Ford Racing camp have done and are understanding. Ford products are getting great fuel mileage on the road right now. Ford Motor Company is trying to be a leader in that, and it has done a great job. I think that, along with buying a Ford and driving it the right way, you can reap some rewards at the gas pump."

JACK ROUSH, Owner, Roush Fenway Ford Fusions

YOUR TEAMS HAVE HAD GOOD SUCCESS WITH FUEL ECONOMY. HOW HARD DO YOU WORK ON THAT? "On the subject of fuel economy, I'll start with a disclaimer that I really wish that none of the races would end under a flag of fuel economy performance. The fans obviously think it's more exciting when everybody that's out there is able to run and a lot of times some of the people that go fastest on the race track don't get the best fuel mileage, so that upsets the finish of the race to the satisfaction of many and I'm sensitive to that. But since it is a reality that some cars do get better fuel mileage than others and occasionally a race does fall so that after the last stop there's a stretch to reach the end of the race on the fuel that's in the car, we race that really hard.

"Ford has helped us explore the engine and the carburetor to be able to find out how to optimize the air-fuel ratios and maximize performance. Even though you don't have enough fuel to really do the job, how can you diminish the performance as little as possible? We've worked real hard at that. I think that the help we've got has been better than the other teams and I think that our performance right now, if all the races were decided on fuel mileage, I think we would win more than our share. The balance is key. One of the things that we've found that's been a surprise is as you slow down a little and say you don't go as hard as you can on the straightaway - you make a decision not to use brakes at the end of the straightaway going into the corner, so you get out of the throttle earlier so you burn less fuel on the straightaway, you have less wear and tear on the brakes and remarkably, surprisingly, some of the drivers in some of the cars have performance that's really not diminished at all. We've had cases when the car has had a catastrophic problem of handling that remarkably got fixed when they've tried to save fuel, so it's a little bit of a quandary of how the fuel mileage winds up not really degrading the performance of the car as much as you might think."

THOSE SAME TECHNIQUES YOU TALKED ABOUT TO SAVE FUEL IN THE RACE CAR COULD BE APPLIED TO A PASSENGER CAR AS WELL, RIGHT? "Well, you surely could if you anticipated the red lights that were turning or if you were able to stay a car length further behind traffic on expressways and weren't on the gas and on the brake and on the gas and on the brake. Things that you do to minimize the opening and closing of the throttle winds up having a fuel economy dimension and, of course, anytime that you're able to not use the brakes will help you on fuel economy. And speed - driving at posted speeds rather than stretching that out is good for fuel economy as well."

-credit: ford racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Carl Edwards , Jack Roush
Teams Yates Racing